Notes on Arranging Music for Paper
Rolls for Band
Background on My
Printing Roll or Book Templates
to Get Rolls from MIDI Files
Star Spangled Banner
The book From Music Boxes to Street Organs,
by Romke De Waard, translated by Wade Jenkins, The Vestal Press, 1967,
Library of Congress number 67-27808 is a very important resource for
anyone working with mechanical organs. Chapter 10, "The Notation of
Organ Books," is devoted to traditional Dutch methods of preparing
folding book music. It includes a good description of the methods on
laying out music on a 'marking table.' It also includes a good sample
taken from a book for an 89-key Gavioli. Using the method described, it
is certainly possible to make out a book or a roll, which can then be
cut with an X-acto knife or a hollow punch and a hammer.
The chapter includes an excellent list of qualifications which the
arranger should have. These include a thorough knowledge of harmony and
counterpoint, at least limited skills as a composer, a thorough
knowledge of mechanical organs' sounds in general, the styles
used in street and fairground music, and a detailed knowledge of the
scale and responses of the particular organ for which the arrangement
is to be prepared.
In reality, few of today's band organ arrangers working in Britain or
America have much formal training in arranging. Most have training as
amateur band or orchestral players, and some are skilled at sight
playing in a concert setting. On the other hand, I know of at least two
arrangers who claim they can not read music. What they appear to have
in common is a thorough knowledge of mechanical organ technology, a
good feel for music, and a desire to increase the number of tunes
available for their instruments.
I think most contemporary arrangers are working on computers using
MIDI. The advantage of this is that you can hear playback of the file
at every stage. Corrections can be made without punching a book or
roll. This is frequently used even when the sole objective is to
produce rolls or books for public performance. It works particularly
effectively when computer controlled punching machines are available.
If you work in MIDI, it is, in fact, probably unnecessary to actually
own a punching machine since there are a number of people who will
punch rolls to order from MIDI files.
I began punching my own 20er (a commonly
used abbreviation for "20 note scale")
rolls for my organ several years ago.
I use a home-built
one-hole foot operated punch, and guiding the paper by hand. the punch
is described in "Hand
Templates" , originally written for the COAA
magazine The Carousel Organ.
I'm happy with many (but not all) of the
my work. I now have so many rolls I have to decide which to leave at
home when I head out to a rally.
I an strictly an amateur musician, but not completely untrained. I took
a lot of violin lessons as a child, and played (poorly?) in school
orchestras. I had an introduction to musical theory in a high school
music club. I assume that you, dear reader, at least can read music,
and know what chords are. I know at least one noteur who lacks these
qualifications, but that takes rare talent. As a self-taught amateur
noteur, I make no claim that my methods are "the right way to do
arranging," but they work for me.
My first rolls were punched from 20er MIDI files I
found on the web. The number of decent free 20er files on the web is
very small, and may even be decreasing, but there are many other MIDI
files which may be downloaded for free..
Having a great MIDI file is only the beginning. You usually still have
arrange it for the organ scale, regardless of whether it is a 20er,
Raffin 31, or a large Gavioli or Wurlitzer 165, and whether you are
driving the organ with barrels, books, rolls, or MIDI. I had started
editing MIDI files many years earlier, and my next step was to learn
some arranging techniques.
Early on I found little formal material to guide my studies, although I
benefited greatly from a few conversations and short items in
newsgroups. That is a major reason for offering these simplistic notes.
Recently I found two webpages by Harald M. Mueller which
may be very useful to others:
Some Remarks on Arranging for the 20er -
Our methods differ, but everything he says looks reasonable to me.
A Short Course on Arranging for Small Organs -
Since the time I started making rolls I have primarily been using a
called PowerTracks Pro for MIDI editing. I had previously used
and liked a DOS
of Cakewalk, but I have found that I don't like the Windows
Cakewalk which I have tried.
PowerTracks Pro Audio is a MIDI editor distributed by PG Music.
pretty much a "full featured" editor, and includes many options.
Particularly useful is the "Piano Roll" display, in which you may
all notes of the same MIDI number. This allows you to transpose all
occurrences of a note. This allows you, for example, to move a bass
missing from a scale to another octave, or move a missing note up or
down a 3rd, 5th, or 7th.
Printing Roll or Book Templates
I print my rolls on a Panasonic dot
using traditional perforated, fan-fold computer paper.
MIDIBoek does the "drafting" work of
laying out a template of a roll, or strip, as well as a lot of file
uses an organ scale in the form of a "Gamma File," in this case a text
file of the scale description saved with a .GAM extension. MIDIBoek
prints only those notes which lie within the instrument scale, and
lists those notes which do not fit. It is not an editor, but does allow
for transpositions. You can download the MIDIBoek for Windows
software and the editor Noteur from http://huizen.daxis.nl/~Ppaardekam The authors of MIDIBoek distribute it for FREE! (MIDIBoek is a Windows only program. Mike
a somewhat similar program which runs under Linux or UNIX.)
While in general MIDIBoek works just fine in most, or
perhaps all, versions of Windows, it does not correctly print in banner
format in versions after Win 98. This is the fault of Microsoft, not
authors. The printer drivers for recent Windows versions apparently
count lines and issue page feed commands at inappropriate places. I
have resolved the problem by using an old computer running Windows 95
exclusively to print my rolls.
Ways to Get Rolls
from MIDI Files
If you don't want to build and operate a punch, you might
use a punching service.
Mel Wright offers punching services for John Smith
26 and Raffin 20 and 31 note formats. I've used his service a couple of
times (in addition to buying a number of his rolls) and I can testify
that he provides a high quality product at a reasonable price with
about a 7-day turn-around to the USA.
You might also inquire about services from Roll
If any others offer punching service, I'd be
happy to know about them and will post the information